What were the reasons behind you taking up refereeing?
When I qualified as a referee I was at 6th form college studying for A levels, as well as the A levels I did a two-year PE course, part of which involved taking refereeing courses in basketball and doing football.
I was playing a lot of football at the time and started refereeing in the Coast Colts League in Newcastle on a Sunday afternoon. When I went to university in Leeds, I continued playing and refereeing in holidays for extra money. I eventually stopped playing in 1999 and started to concentrate on refereeing.
How long have you been refereeing?
I qualified as a referee in 1988 but only really concentrated fully on it from the 1999-2000 Season.
You are co-ordinating the Referees Centre of Excellence. What does this involve? What are the aims of the Centre of Excellence?
The West Riding FA has been a driving force in establishing a school of excellence for young referees in the country. We currently have approximately 30 young referees from 17 years of age to 34.
Each referee is assigned to a coach (14 in total) who currently is either a referee or assistant referee on the football league and in some cases the Premier League.
The students at the school train together once a week and follow training programmes from the Professional Game Match Official Limited (PGMOL). The students speak regularly to the coaches who offer advice and guidance after training sessions.
|Martin Atkinson in the middle|
We are very lucky in West Riding to have so many dedicated coaches, who include the premier league referees Mike Riley and Martin Atkinson. It is great for the school of excellence students to be able to call on such experience for advice and guidance.
How much of your time does the role take up?
Refereeing takes up a lot of time. The public sometimes don’t appreciate the level of commitment needed to make it to the top of the professional game.
Most officials in the football league will train 3-4 times a week on either, stamina or fitness work. On top of that there will be games, which involves travelling (2hrs), arrival at ground (3hrs before kick off) the match (2hrs) debrief from the match assessor (half an hour) and the travel back (2hrs), which all have to be fitted in around family and work responsibilities.
The role of the school of excellence co-ordinator takes up approximately five hours a week, through training, organising and emailing speakers, trainers and students.
What are your memories of refereeing in the Leeds area?
Between 1999- 2002 I have refereed a lot in the Leeds area, doing games in the Harrogate, West Yorkshire and Leeds combination Sunday league.
I really enjoyed refereeing Sunday morning football on Soldiers field in Leeds. One of the most enjoyable early games I did was HT sports and Fforde Green on a Sunday morning, these games can be extremely competitive and the banter between the players and spectators is quality.
Being from Leeds I don’t referee Leeds United as a rule but I did act as fourth official twice last season.
There isn’t much money to be made refereeing at amateur level, why do you do it?
For many referees and myself refereeing isn’t about the money. We do it because we enjoy the experiences. Initially it was a way of staying involved in football or keeping fit.
Eventually as you get promoted to higher levels of the game it becomes about improving as a referee and enhancing your game. Obviously when you become a football league assistant referee, the financial rewards become greater, however, it’s still about enjoyment, friendships and making sure you add to and improve with each game.
You must have pretty thick skin, as refs get a lot of abuse both on the pitch and from the touchline, how do you put up with it and stop yourself from reacting?
|Mike Riley in action|
Some games are more difficult than others whether you are on a local parks pitch or at Elland Road a last minute penalty decision or sending off can often lead to the officials to feel the wrath of the crowd. As a referee you are often not aware of it due to concentration on the game.
Players are governed by the laws of the game and therefore managed accordingly within this framework. Some comments are quite funny from the crowd and a smile can sometimes diffuse a situation. I have never come close to reacting to anyone, it’s important that the referee remains calm at all times or at least gives that impression!!